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In-Depth: Cleveland residents wonder why vacant properties are still standing

In-Depth: CLE residents wonder why vacant properties are still standing
In-Depth: CLE residents wonder why vacant properties are still standing
Posted at 11:03 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 14:15:06-04

CLEVELAND — Robert and Elizabeth Tucholski are worried about the safety of their Cleveland Slavic Village neighborhood after the body of an unidentified man was discovered in a vacant unsecured home next door.

Police says the man's body was found by a neighbor on June 8 in a second-floor bedroom. The Tucholski's said the home has been abandoned for more than four years, and has been reported as a hazard to the city of Cleveland multiple times.

City leaders confirmed the distressed home was allowed to be sold at a Cuyahoga County Sheriff's sale just last month.

"Somebody from out-of-state bought it. What are they going to do? They’re not going to come here and do anything with it," Elizabeth Tucholski said. "It's going to sit here and the same thing—drug heads."

“It’s scary. I used to be able to walk these neighborhoods to work and back. I used to take buses, not no more. I had to get my driver's license, because I’m scared to death,” she said.

The potentially dangerous home was also reported to the city by News 5 and Slavic Village community activist Ed McDonald in August 2019, but 22 months later very little was done to get the property renovated or torn down.

“I’m tired of reporting it, people are tired of hearing me say it," McDonald said. “There seems to be this disconnection, and there's this level of importance that this neighbor just doesn’t seem to be on.”

He continued, "You can take a Tremont, or an Ohio City, or other parts of the city, they seem to have a different reach to resources that we don’t.”

“What would have happened if there was somebody’s kid inside this house.”

Lincoln Heights Block Club Chairperson Henry Senyak said it's the same type of City of Cleveland department disconnection concerning a vacant building on West 25th Street near the I-90 interchange.

Senyak said the former Torres Building has been the target of arson, vagrants and crime for several years. Senyak said the building is now owned by the Tremont Animal Clinic next door and said all the owner wants to do is have it torn down so she can put in a new development at that location.

But Senyak said the city has caused nothing but continued delays, created by a lack of communication between multiple city departments.

"All the homeless vagrants are begging for money, and they’re sleeping in the doorways here," Senyak said. "They’re breaking into the upstairs, doing drugs and stealing."

"When Cleveland gets a new Mayor, and new city department heads are brought in, they must make sure that they put somebody in there that can cross all the 'T’s' and dot all the 'I’s' to make sure there is not a disconnect. They need to have more community engagement.”

News 5 reached out to Ward 12 Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli about both problem properties, and he acknowledged the city department issues.

Brancatelli said he'll be working with Cleveland Housing Court to get the home on East 50th street condemned and on track to be taken down.

Brancatelli also said that on June 2, he submitted a demolition request for the building on West 25th Street and hopes it will have a date with a wrecking crew within the next month. Brancatelli said the city has made multiple efforts to work with the new building owner to move the building to renovation or demolition over the past 18 months.

Brancatelli said both he and the city have addressed the vacant properties on East 50 numerous times, re-securing the locations and cut the lawns multiple times as the homes work their way through the system. Brancatelli said the homes have been inspected and added dozens of blighted homes have been taken down in Slavic Village, especially over the past five years.

Meanwhile, Senyak is concerned that if the building remains standing there could be some serious consequences.

"They’ll probably be another arson, homeless vagrants will go in there, instead of begging for money they’re going to shoot up drugs, start it on fire and then the city will have to deal with that," Senyak said.